Pottery and Schnaps on Fraueninsel Island, Germany

You never know what treasures you might find when you travel off the beaten path in Bavaria. I was strolling around the quaint folklore museum in Prien am Chiemsee when I came upon a particularly beautiful and elaborate stove covered with tiles. As I was the only visitor at the time, the curator was happy to walk around with me.

“This,” she said, “is a masterpiece from a pottery on the Fraueninsel. They maintain a centuries old tradition of producing hand made tiles to this day.” Given that it was another sunny and warm late summer day in early September, I finished my visit to the Heimatmuseum and headed  straight to the dock in Prien where the ferries to the two islands, Herreninsel and Fraueninsel  depart.

Fraueninsel (Lady’s Island), also called Frauenchiemsee, is the second largest of the three islands on the Chiemsee, a freshwater lake in Bavaria, Germany. The largest Island is Herreninsel (gentleman’s island), also called Herrenchiemsee. The third of the main islands, is Krautinsel (herb island), smaller than Frauenchiemsee and uninhabited.

Less than an hour later I stepped ashore on Fraueninsel and went in search of the pottery. It turned out to be a wonderful trip as there is so much more to see than the pottery. The island is renowned as a place where many artists of all kinds (potters , painters and weavers) find inspiration and a tranquil place to work as no cars are allowed on the island.

I followed the path along the lake which takes you around the entire island in about an hour with stops in between. Proceeding in a counter-clockwise direction, I found more than one pottery. The first was Klampfleuthner which was founded in 1609 and still produces traditional tiles, among them designs which were used on the stove in the museum in Prien.

The next was Keramik im Bootshaus with its more modern ceramic artforms. What I liked most was a plate or bowl made to resemble coral, and an entire aquarium with colorful ceramic fish and plants. Lydia, one of the four artists who runs the pottery, was sitting at her work table, oblivious 0f me and others watching her as she painted vases and plates with the finest of brushes and the most vivid colors.

At the northern jetty, I turned a corner and happened upon another specialty of the island: kiosks and small restaurants  where you can enjoy buns with Renken or Aal (two fish found in the Chiemsee), freshly smoked only on the Fraueninsel.  Renken resembles trout and is served in a bun with horseradish mixed with cream. I preferred to eat it on the go because the walk around the island was just too beautiful to stop and sit down.

I completed the circle with a visit to the monastery of the Benedictine nuns which is the island’s most famous landmark. The monastery was founded in 782 by Duke Tassilo II of Bavaria and given to the nuns who, uninterruptedly, have been living there ever since. Their motto is ‘ora et labora’, which translates, ‘work and pray’. The praying takes place in either a beautiful chapel or an exquisite baroque church. The monastery offers three day or more retreats and seminars  for people who wish to meditate and share their spiriturality with others. Further information if you wish to book such a retreat, can be found at www.frauenwoerth.de/english.

To help support themselves and the monastery, the nuns produce two specialties: a very potent herb liquor and marzipan, mostly in the form of the age old Christian symbol of a fish. Both products are sold in the Klosterladen, the shop annexed to the monastery. I spent over half an hour browsing the shop which far supersedes your usual souvenir kiosk. Apart from the schnaps and marzipan, the shop offers a vast selection of books about local history, Christian art and philosophy as well as hand made votive candles, rosaries, herbs and more mundane pieces like mugs and aprons.

After my Renkenbrötchen, a marzipan fish dessert went down very well. Before leaving, I just had to buy a gift box of small bottles of liquor and marzipan for friends at home.

I then returned to the jetty. Casting a last look over the peaceful island with the onion tower of the monastery in the distance, I embarked on yet another of the ferries from the Fessler Company to take me back across the Chiemsee to Prien.

Written By Inka Piegsa-Quischotte for EuropeUpClose.com

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